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New Chrome Plugin TrackerSSL Promises To Keep Browsing Anonymous

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Saturday, April 18th, 2015


A new Google Chrome plugin “TrackerSSL” promises to make web browsing more secure by highlighting the vulnerabilities posed by third party tracking tools. The plugin was developed by Andrew Hilts, executive director of Canadian non-profit privacy organization Open Effect who is also a research fellow at University of Toronto’s interdisciplinary laboratory Citizen Lab. The plugin, which was launched on the International Data Privacy Day, incorporates many features of Electronic Frontier Foundation’s HTTPS Everywhere plugin and can be downloaded from the Chrome Web Store.

What Is TrackerSSL?

TrackerSSL is a Chrome plugin which alerts you about the security vulnerabilities present on the webpages that you are visiting. The plugin makes it easy to check which third party tools and websites are tracking you and whether or not the tracking done by those sites can be done in a more secure way. It achieves this by examining all third party connections that are embedded into a webpage and then by checking which trackers used by the site can transmit the data through the HTTPS protocol. TrackerSSL even generates a report that includes a list of sites that you visit and third party companies that are receiving data about your browsing habits and groups them according to whether or not they support secure transmission of data (via HTTPS).

Why Is TrackerSSL Needed?

A lot of websites rely on third party services to analyze the behavior of their audience, add social media functionality to their sites or for advertising. For the third party services to work correctly, a site owner usually needs to embed the code supplied by the third party company into the pages of the site. Once the code is installed, the tracking company can capture detailed information about each visit to the website and make it available to the owner.

While these third party services provide an invaluable service to web service providers, they can also compromise personal data of online users. Many tracking companies do not use encryption while transmitting data to their servers leaving the private data of netizens susceptible to interception by marketing companies or hackers. What’s worse, unencrypted tracking data can even be accessed by intelligence agencies who can use it to learn more about the browsing habits of a particular user. If a third party company isn’t using HTTPS in its code, its tracking data can be intercepted even if the site on which the tracking code is installed uses encryption.

TrackerSSL address the problem of unencrypted tracking in a totally unique way. The plugin not only identifies each third party connection on a webpage that is insecure, it also lets users tweet about their findings to the site owners. The idea is to encourage web service providers to switch to secure tracking tools and adopt HTTPS for their webpages if they have not already done so. Only by switching to secure modes of data transmission and using HTTPS on all the sites can we hope to protect our data from unauthorized access and surveillance.


April 18, 2015
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